Pig Fat Pie; Dinner at 7-Eleven; Almost-Last-Minute New Year's Eve Ideas

Selections from Voracious, our daily food blog.

A Few Almost-Last-Minute New Year's Eve IdeasFor those of you who want to do it up this New Year's Eve and also want to score reservations before the last minute, the press releases for New Year's Eve dinners continue to roll in. See this post for last week's list, which includes Canlis, Qube, and Rover's.The Barking Frog in Woodinville is doing five courses, plus oysters and champagne, for $110 (plus tax and tip), or $160 for food plus wine pairings. Here's one course: turbot with Pernod and fennel, beluga lentils, and lemon beurre blanc.Barolo Restaurant is whipping up four courses' worth of New Year's festivities. The prices of the prix-fixe menu vary with the entrée chosen, ranging from scallops ($65) to lobster with risotto ($85)—plus wine, tax, and tip, of course.The BluWater Bistros (three in Seattle, one in Kirkland) and Belltown Bistro are offering perhaps the most affordable New Year's Eve dinner, at $39.95 (plus wine, tax, and tip). It'll include filet mignon surf-and-turf, a chocolate ganache torte, and party favors. No, not those party favors. The South Lake Union location promises a great view of the midnight fireworks.Cafe Amore in Belltown is hosting a New Year's Eve Masquerade Ball. Eighty dollars (plus tax, tip, and booze) gets you a four-course meal centering around stuffed king crab legs or Misty Isle filet mignon, as well as a champagne split, a mask, burlesque performances, and a rockabilly band.Earth & Ocean at the W is offering a three-course dinner. Sample items: foie gras torchon with grapefruit salad, pork tenderloin with farmer's cheese. If you want to make a whole night of it, the W Hotel is offering a package for $425 that includes party treats.Joule is serving a four-course blowout, which—shock and awe here—is quite reasonably priced at $48 (plus tax and tip, includes champagne toast); it includes dishes like agnolotti with truffled house-made ricotta and potato-bacon cream and Kobe flat-iron steak with pickled mustard seeds and sweet miso Bordelaise sauce.At Portage in Queen Anne, Chef Vuong Loc is serving a $55 four-course dinner (plus tax and tip, includes champagne toast), and if you'd like wine pairing, you can tack that on for $25. Entrées include diver scallops with truffled cauliflower risotto and a strip loin with root-veg gratin.Veil is doing a three-course dinner for $55 that takes you from beet and white-asparagus salad (among other choices) to salted peanut-butter ice cream. Tack on another $45 per person and you can score yourself a glass of champagne as well as six oysters and some osetra caviar.— Jonathan KauffmanThe $13 Dinner at 7-ElevenWhere: 7-Eleven, 1550 N.W. Market St., BALLARDWhat does $13 get you?  A can of tuna, relish, a mayo packet, a package of Hawaiian rolls, a fruit cup, a bowl of soup, two Slurpies, a dark chocolate Snickers bar, and a scratch-off ticket, plus 50 cents to give the guy sitting on the curb outside Recommended? In a pinch. And if nothing else, go get a Slurpie. They have the best flavor selection of all the 7-Elevens I've frequented in Seattle.Official tasting notes: Dates are expensive—even if you're married to the person with whom you're on a date. But the bonus of the married date is you can cut corners and still expect the person to call you the next day and, if you're lucky, even put out that night.So off to 7-Eleven we went in search of food and entertainment. And food we definitely found. I was expecting to have to get a six-pack, a bag of chips, and some candy, but my husband really dug deep for this assignment, finding a bag of rolls, tuna, sweet relish, and a mayo packet (free mayo!) for the makings of a bag o' tiny tuna sandwiches.Then I figured we should have a soup course and a gelatinous fruit course. They had the real deal (i.e., fresh fruit—yes, at 7-Eleven), but I figured when in Rome, eat the gelatinous stuff in a cup. Then I found the most amazing thing to come along since the Snickers bar: the dark chocolate Snickers bar. And we figured it wasn't a date without entertainment, so we threw down a buck for a scratch-off ticket.Sadly, we didn't win anything in the lotto, but we did walk away with a sack full of sustenance and two Slurpies in hand. Plus, we had 50 cents left to toss to the fellow sitting outside with the sign that says, "A couple fries short of a happy meal."Everything was delightfully normal—the same sort of meal you'd throw together after scrounging around in your own cabinets—except, of course, for the Slurpies, which were a little piece of frozen, syrupy heaven. Honestly, though, the gelatinous fruit cup went untouched and ended up providing more entertainment than the scratch-off ticket.— Jen HarperWhy Not a Pig-Fat Pie?I just learned that there will be leaf lard available at the UD farmers market this weekend. Hallelujah! It's the softest, sweetest, bestest lard a pig gives, straight from the fat surrounding the kidneys. But this stuff ain't from just any pigs—it's from Berkshire hogs raised by Wooly Pigs rancher Heath Putnam, the guy whose super-marbled Mangalitsa pork will reportedly be available next summer. This is phat pig fat.Of course, most people want Heath's Berkshire chops and jowl bacon for their Christmas parties, but I'll be there to buy the leaf lard because I want to make a pie.Here's a bit of quick, oversimplified baking science: When you make a pie crust, you layer little pieces of butter or shortening or what have you between layers of flour (whose gluten, when mixed with water, becomes activated . . . but that's another topic entirely). When the butter melts, it produces steam, which pushes the floury stuff apart, resulting in the little air pockets we come to know on our tongues as flaky piecrust.But see, leaf lard is made up of bigger fat crystals than butter. In pie making, this translates to bigger air pockets, and thus a much flakier crust. Some argue that butter has a better flavor, so many recipes call for a combination of leaf lard and butter. I've always wanted to try it. Because who wouldn't love a pig-and-apple pie?There's one little catch: When you buy leaf lard, you can't just chop it up and throw it in the mixer like butter. You have to render it yourself before using it.But what the hey? It's baking season, when we're all game for something new. Why not try a pig-fat pie?— Jess Thompson

 
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